Himalayan hill people

Siblings, Phungar Village
Siblings, Phungar Village

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Porter, Landour Bazaar, Mussoorie
Porter, Landour Bazaar, Mussoorie

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Rooftop, Landour Bazaar, Mussoorie
Rooftop, Landour Bazaar, Mussoorie

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Bulk Foods Shop, Ranikhet
Bulk Foods Shop, Ranikhet

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Barbershop, Ranikhet
Barbershop, Ranikhet

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Herb Market, Ranikhet
Herb Market, Ranikhet

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Roadwork, Mullingar, Mussoorie
Roadwork, Mullingar, Mussoorie

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Roadwork, Mullingar, Mussoorie
Roadwork, Mullingar, Mussoorie

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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Sweetshop, Ranikhet
Sweetshop, Ranikhet

Uttarakhand, India: 2018

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The Indian state of Uttarakhand lies immediately west of Nepal and shares its high mountain landscape. Uttarakhand itself is divided into two districts, Garhwal to the west and Kumaon to the east.

In the spring of 2018 I returned to Garhwal and Kumaon for the first time in forty years. I spent a few weeks in Mussoorie, the town where I went to high school. After that I traveled widely in eastern Kumaon, sometimes in hill towns like Ranikhet and Nainital and Champawat and Almora, but mostly in remote mountain villages.

 

I was accompanying a group of researchers investigating sites where, between the 1900s and the 1930s, a legendary hunter, Jim Corbett, tracked and killed about a dozen man-eating tigers and leopards that preyed on the Kumaoni hill population. (For example, the Champawat Tiger and the Panar Leopard each killed over 400 people.)

 

The landscape of Uttarakhand is extreme: the high Indian Himalayas to the north average 20,000 feet, but most of the inhabited land consists of foothills half that high. At similar elevations in the U.S., people live in and farm the valleys, while the steep slopes are given over to forest. But in the Himalayas there is little flat valley land, and by necessity people cultivate all the way to the tops of the hills, cutting dry terraces for wheat and potatoes on almost impossible slopes.

 

I went to Kumaon this time expecting to focus on landscape photography, my emphasis in New Mexico. But I found myself drawn to people, especially people at work, both in remote hill villages and in the markets of larger towns. India is still a place where humans are cheaper and more abundant than machines, and many of the subjects of these photographs spend their lives doing by hand what we have long since been privileged to automate and motorize.
 

STUART GELZER photography